Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Locomotive Services Limited heads south

47805, resplendent in BR two-tone green hauls the special charter through Surbiton at speed on the South West Mainline.
New entrant to the charter market 'Locomotive Services Limited' ran a private charter on on 31st August 2018 from London Victoria to Alton with two of their class 47's' 47805 and 47853. The trip took invited guests to a private event on the Watercress Line.
Locomotive Services Limited made a welcome addition to the charter market during 2018 providing the first alternative to the market which has been dominated by DB Cargo (formerly DB Schenker and EWS) and West Coast Railways. The new company headed by Jeremy Hoskin owns a number of steam locomotives as well as several heritage diesels which are based at their operating centre in Crewe. Initially a limited program of trains is being run under the 'Saphos' brand while the operator becomes established.
A fourth steam operator will also soon enter the fray with Vintage Trains Limited in advance stages of putting together it's business which will be run as a co-operative 'Community Benefit Scheme'.
Each of these companies should bring much needed competition and variety to charter operations.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Comment - Public bidders for next Scotrail Franchise?

380 019 wearing the Transport Scotland prescribed 'Saltair' livery calls at Paisley Gilmore Street.

This week it has been announced by Transport Scotland that a public body will be able to bid for the next Scotrail franchise, which will begin in 2025. I had not realised that it was as long ago as 2014 where I wrote a comment on the Inter City East Coast franchise, which was then under public ownership as Directly Operated Railways following the collapse of the National Express franchise. I asked at that time whether it was appropriate for a public bidder to enter the competition for the Inter City East Coast franchise- of course it didn't, and the contract was let out to a consortium of Virgin and Stagecoach. Fast forward to today and Inter City East Coast is once again in public ownership, now branded as LNER, after the failure of the Virgin/Stagecoach operation.
320 313 approaches Bellshill
I was particularly interested therefore to see the announcement this week that Transport Scotland would allow a public bidder to compete against the private sector in Scotland, something which the UK Government had previously refused to entertain. Transport Scotland have stated that 'Our consistent view over many years is that there ought to be a level playing field between the private and public sector in bidding for rail franchises.'- Almost exactly what I had suggested in my previous comment, and very similar to the model used in many parts of Europe where national operators bid (and sometimes win) against the private sector. This landmark ruling is a breath of fresh air for the UK rail industry and provides a real opportunity to challenge the current franchising system which has been so criticised in recent years. I will certainly be watching the next Scotrail bidding competition closely; whether or not a public bidder wins the franchise or not it will certainly shake up the system, and this can only be a positive step.
The full Transport Scotland statement can be read here.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

New Zealand Mk2's

DF 7200 heads away from Wellington with the 17:30 service to Masterton on the 'Wairarapa Connection'- the consist is is 6 re-gauged and heavily re-built British Rail Mk2 coaches. 

Kiwi Rail DFB 7049 stands at Upper Hutt with the 12:25 Wairarapa
Connection train from Wellington to Masterton.
The most 'Mk2 looking' vehicles are the first batch of
conversions, still used to day on the Capital Connection.
I have always maintained that the railway has an insatiable appetite to surprise. Surely one of the most surprising developments in the late 1990's and 2000's was the export of British Railways Mk2 coaches to New Zealand for further mainline use after re-building.
There were three main variants of 'NZ Mk2' which were dealt with in different ways. All involved re-gauging to the NZ 1067mm gauge and some degree of internal and external modification.

The first set of Mk2's to re-enter traffic in New Zealand were classed as 'S class' and entered traffic with minimal modifications (and still very much looking like a Mk2) for the 'Capital Connection' train from Wellington to Palmerston North. The train makes one return trip each day and still runs in 2018 with the Mk2 coaches- poor ridership however could put the future of this operation in doubt.

The 5:15pm Capital Connection gets underway from Wellington to Palmerston North.

The largest batch of coaches went to Auckland for use by Auckland Regional Transport Authority (run by TransDev) who operated suburban services with diesel locomotives. These Mk2's were altered to have double sliding doors at 1/3 and 2/3 positions along the coach side and classified as 'SA Class'. Further vehicles were converted as driving trailers 'SD Class' to enable push-pull operation. The Auckland operation ceased in 2014 having been so successful in re-vitalising commuter rail in the city that widespread electrification became viable and the loco hauled operation was replaced by modern EMU's built by CAF. The coaches are now in store with some earmarked for various projects which may give them further use.

Another rake of  'SW Class' Mk2's wait their departure from Wellington to Masterton behind DFB 7348.

Slide-plug doors, new ribbon glazing and an altered end
profile make the Wellington 'SW Class' Mk2's almost
With the end of operations in Auckland the largest daily user of Mk2's in New Zealand is now operated by Kiwi Rails 'Tranz Metro' business in Wellington. Recently the majority of the Wellington commuter network has received new stock from Hyundai Rotem/Mitsui however the non-electrified 'Wairarapa Connection' to Masterton continues to use diesel locomotives and coaches. Mk2's for this service are extensively re-built and classified as 'SW Class'- they feature slide plug doors at the coach ends, new bodyside windows and are totally refurbished internally. A smaller batch of 'SE Class' coaches is also used on the Wairarapa Connection which largely retain their BR interiors. These coaches are hauled by Kiwi Rail DF loco's and run up to six times daily in each direction.
The interior of an 'SW Class' Mk2 on the Wairarapa connection shows what can be done to these elderly vehicles. Barely recognisable as Mk2 internally these coaches are a comfortable way to travel.

An ex-Gatwick Express coach in New Zealand waiting it's
turn for overhaul by the Mainline Steam Trust.
The final user of ex-BR Mk2's is the Mainline Steam Trust which has purchased a number of vehicles for use with their heritage operations in New Zealand following a risk that national operator Kiwi Rail may no longer be able to supply stock for their trips. The coaches are in the process of being overhauled for excursion use.

DFB 7200 powers a Wairarapa train on the non electrified section of the route near Carterton.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

SBB/BLS/MGB/RhB Switzerland Trip Report - BLS and Narrow Gauge Railways. 13-17 July 2018

BLS 'Brownie' 188 approaches Kandersteg with one of the frequent car shuttles from Goppenstein through the Lotschberg tunnel. 14/07/2018

Friday 13th July
Re460 100 heads towards the Lotschberg
Base Tunnel at Reichenback
As so many of my trips seem to have done this year, I found myself leaving the office after a night shift, suitcase in hand, heading straight to the airport. My Swiss Flight from Heathrow to Zurich was around 1 hour late, which was frustrating- I just wanted to get to Switzerland and into the mountains!
As ever the SBB journey was painless with Re460's from Flughaven to Zurich Hbf and on to Bern and Spiez. I had identified a field near the station at Reichenback for some evening photography. Unfortunately the sun didn't play ball and I didn't really achieve any reasonable photos. I did however meet up with Rhys 'fancy seeing you in this field' who was joining me for the trip.
With rain now descending and the light closing in it was time to make our way on to Kandersteg and our accommodation. I do love the mountains and sitting outdoors in the warm weather listening to a local band playing while having dinner was a very pleasant way to spend the evening. Now we just needed to keep everything crossed for some good weather in the morning- and some BLS 'Brownies'.

Saturday 14th July
BLS Traxx 485 019 leads a RoLa train past lake Thun at Einigen as it travels towards the Lotschberg Pass. 14/07/2018

'Brownie' 195 approaches Kandersteg.
There were a few clouds in the sky but also some nice breaks when I poked my head around the curtains at dawn. Breakfast was very good at Hotel Alpina and having picked up Rob, the final member of our Clan we made our way to the railway. Aside from the mountains there was one reason we were staying in Kandersteg- this is the northern end of the regular car shuttles that run through the Lotschberg tunnel between Kandersteg and Goppenstein, there being no road access over the mountains. At Goppenstien the trains run out of the tunnel and directly into the loading area, however at Kandersteg there is a short stretch of open air running where the trains can be photographed.

BLS 188 looks somewhat diminutive among the Swiss Alps
with another car shuttle from Goppenstein. 

The shuttles run with one of the attractive BLS Re4/4 'Brownies' on the north end with rake of flat car-carrying wagons and a driving trailer coach at the south end. The formation gives a narrow window of opportunity for sunny pictures, though even with the long days at this time of year there is only a couple of hours between the sun clearing the mountain tops and coming round off the front of the trains. Fortunately the shuttles run frequently with departures ever 30 minutes through the day with additional trains running as required. During the early part of Saturday morning shuttles seemed to be running at least 4 times an hour in each direction giving ample opportunities to photograph the 5 locos which were working from various locations.

MRCE hire in's to SBB 189983 + 189107 emerge from a dramatic background at Einigen with a northbound container train. The skies had been darkening over the mountains and thunder was not far away! 14/07/2018
BLS 'Brownies' 182, 178 and 194 on freight duties at Spiez.
Freight over the Lotschberg pass is much reduced since the opening of the Lotschberg Base Tunnel in 2007, however due to this project never being fully completed and leaving a significant period of the tunnel as single track, there is still some freight traffic which is routed over the old mountain route (unlike the Gotthard, where the fully double-tracked tunnel has eliminated mountain running). Freight trains can be erratic and infrequent but one was captured during our morning of photography with a pair of the blue BLS Re465 locos.

BLS 501 waits with a service to Interlaken. 14/07/2018

Once the sun had moved round too far it was time for us to move on from Beautiful Kanderstag. We took one of the local units on to Speiz before diverting ourselves away from the lineside briefly for a loco-hauled spin to Interlaken behind one of the ex-SBB Re4/4ii's which now work for BLS. I believe there are only 3 locos left in traffic and the scenic run along lake Thun was much enjoyed behind 501, especially once we found an opening window in a vestibule.

 BLS 465 011and 007 head towards Spiez at Einigen.

While we could have taken the train back there was a waiting RE460 at Interlaken so this conveyed us back to Spiez where we then commenced the long (around 40 minutes) walk to the popular spot at Einigen. This is certainly a beautiful location with the lake and mountains behind the trains, and fairly busy with traffic- however the hours we spent here were sadly disappointing. Despite some very good light most of the time very few interesting trains came in the direction we wanted.

One of less than a handful of Re10/10 combinations photographed on this trip, 11348 leads 11670 towards Spiez at Einigen.

Sadly no in the best light, Re6/6 11163 leads Re4/4 11343
past Einigen. 11163 was the last of its type to carry the older
green livery and is through to have entered the paintshops
only a few days after this photo was taken.
The only 'Brownie' we saw working a proper freight passed while we were walking to the location and even SBB Re10/10 combinations were very few and far between. To add insult as we were about to leave an Re10/10 finally showed up- headed by no less than 11163, the last of the class to carry the older green liver- it would have been a great shot had the cloud not had other ideas. By around 18:00 the clouds were gathering and we had been hearing thunder in the distance for some time. We made it back to urban Spiez, but not to the station, before the heavens opened. It most definitely rained and shelter was taken under a building canopy for a good 30 minutes (during which time all the Re10/10's obviously came past!). Fortunately the rain diminished and allowed us to get to the station for our train, now both wet and burned from the earlier sunshine.
BLS 465 014 and 018 cross the Kanderviaduct on the 'classic'
Lotschberg route nears Frutigen. 14/07/2018

There was just about time to get off the train at Fruitigen and head up to Tellenburg castle purely to do a reckkie of the view of the long arched Kanderviaduct on the classic line. We didn't expect a train in the 20 minutes we had at the location so despite the overcast weather were very pleased when a pair of BLS Re465's made an appearance. While it was not possible to photograph further trains around 5 were seen on the classic line in the hour we were in the vicinity! After that it was time to head back to Kanderstag for another excellent meal and some much needed sleep.

Sunday 15th July
Descent to Andermatt - Hge4/4ii 103 demonstrates the gradients of the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn as it zig-zags its way down the mountain to Andermatt with a Chur - Zermatt Glaicer Express. 15/07/2018

Hge4/4ii 103 prepares to depart from Brig with a Glacier Express to Chur.
Today was planned as a transit day with the option to spend some additional time on the Lotschberg route again before transiting across to Graubunden and the Rhatische Bahn. The day indeed started off on the Lotschberg with a few hours spent trying to perfect the previous days haul of photos on the car shuttles. Today was much less successful however as the sun no longer wanted to play ball and, being a Sunday, just the regular 30 minute interval shuttles were running. Shortly after 10:00 we began our long journey firstly on a unit through the tunnel and down the Lotschberg pass to Brig. Here we stopped to pick up supplies before boarding our first narrow gauge train of the trip- the Matterhorn Gottard Bahn (MGB) service to Andermatt which we would take to Oberwald. Since 1982 the railway has continued from here through the Furka Base Tunnel, however we chose to take the full traditional route which has re-opened in full each summer for tourist purposes since 2010. Over the summer months Dampfbahn Furka Bergstrecke run daily steam services over the spectacular old railway route. The trains are certainly not cheap (around £55 single), but it is certainly quite an experience to climb up into the mountains on a steam rack railway over the second highest railway in Europe.
Hg3/4 #4 pauses at Muttback-Belvedere close to the summit of the Furka railway and shortly before entering the Furka Tunnel. #4 dates from 1913 and was built at Wintertur. Trains are assisted through the rising grade of the 1858m Furka tunnel by a diesel to safeguard against any failures in the confined tunnel.

HGm4/4 61 descends the rack railway of the Furka pass with
a bike train approaching Oberwald. 15/07/2018
Trains only run in summer months as the route is closed (as it always has been) during the winter due to the severe weather and risk of avalanches- there is even one bridge on the route which is dismantled and 'folded away' each winter to protect the line from seasonal damage. Even in July traces of snow can be seen at the top of the mountain - indeed it is this route which gave its name to the famous 'Glacier Express' trains which run from Zermatt to St Moritz, the glacier in question being the Rhone Glacier which could be seen until 2013 from the trains- it has now retreated over a ridge and out of view from the railway. Our locomotive for the trip was HG 3/4 No.4 which was the only steam loco running- the other train on the route being hauled by an HGm 4/4 diesel loaned from the MGB for the summer. The ride to Realp over the original route takes just shy of 3 hours, including an extended break near the summit for a refreshment stop. This was cut slightly short on our train as we think the driver wanted to get home! Anyway- we didn't complain as it put us back onto the MGB an hour earlier than planned for our journey onward to Andermatt. It is possible to view another set of car shuttles from Realp, those which operate to Oberwald. Though the Furka Base Tunnel this journey takes just 20 minutes all year round- it may be less scenic but the improvement over the mountain route is clear.
Andermatt is the main junction for the MGB where passengers must usually change to continue their journey towards either Goschenen or Disentis.
Deh4/4 23 descends to Andermatt with a train from Disentis. 17/07/2018
Our MGB train terminates here and due to being an hour ahead of the connection we expected there was a short while to photograph the next two arrivals, a Glacier Express from Chur and the next regional arrival from Disentis. The railway after Antermatt climbs one of the most spectacular gradients on the route with the rack railway criss-crossing the mountainside to gain height- it is possible from the station to see the train descending on several levels. After the train from Disentis arrives the loco runs around the stock and we can then continue our journey over the oberalp pass, the highest part of the MGB. From the summit it is a downhill run to meet the Rhatische Bahn (RhB) at Disentis where we leave the somewhat boxy Hge4/4 rack loco's of the MGB and transfer to an RhB service with one of their attractive Ge4/4ii locos- externally very comparable to the familiar SBB Re4/4ii- but quite a different bit of kit electrically. This isn't part of the RhB route I had travelled on previously and is a very pleasant run along gentle gradients following the young river Rhine to Reichenau-Tamins. It is now beginning to get late in the day as we await our final train, which turns up with a Ge4/4iii hauling one of the new Alvra trainsets. These are very impressive new trains which even feature a 'photographers area' with electronically powered opening windows! They certainly met our approval. Our destination is the request stop at Alvaneu as I had found some affordable accommodation here.
The Furka Steam pauses at Gletsch. 17/07/2018
We were expecting this to be something of a one horse town and this certainly proved to be the case, stepping off the train pretty much onto ballast we made our way down to our accommodation at 'La Cantina Restaurant' with our fingers crossed that we would find somewhere for food (especially following my December disaster in the larger town of Filisur). Fortunately the restaurant at our accommodation was still open and were accommodating of our need for pizza. Breakfast was announced as not being until 9am (a bit late) and it was at this point of discussing our plans that a large problem became very apparent. I had overlooked that Alvaneu was only served by 4 trains each day- it just happened that our arrival time had been one of them! We would have no choice but to leave around 7am (or take the postal bus) and therefore our somewhat confused hosts were quickly coerced into making breakfast sandwiches. I am never quite sure what language is being spoken when I am in Switzerland and after a while curiosity got the better of me and I just had to ask what language the hotel owners were speaking - the lady laughed, Portuguese! So that would explain why it didn't sound German!
What an incredible day of travelling it had been- loco hauled all the way from Brig over three narrow gauge railways with racks, spirals and zig-zags and some spectacular scenery (and even some steam)! Definitely time for bed though!

Ge6/6ii 705 Works from St Moritz to Landquart and is seen passing north of Saas on the Rhatische Bahn. 15/07/2018

Monday 16th July
Ge4/4ii 632 works up grade towards Saas with a train to Schol-Tastrup.
This was the day we had been worried about- for about a week the weather forecast had been uncertain- varying between 'mixed' and 'wet'. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to wake up to blue skies. We were glad to be hitting the trains early while the weather was good and headed on the morning train to Filisur and then on to Davos by railcar. Connections are annoyingly poor at Davos eating almost an hour into our time as we waited the train to Klosters. We had a few photo spots in mind but eventually ended up taking a punt on Saas- this turned out to be a good call and an hour later we were back at the station with several photos we were all really pleased with. So that was the two objectives of the trip (a 'Brownie' and a Ge4/4ii photographed in good light) achieved. A friend had tipped us off that you could buy the days loco allocations from a ticket office so we headed back to Klosters to try to procure such a document. The helpful staff had no idea what we were talking about- but we did at least come away with some approximate times for freight trains. One would be in a few minutes, then a northbound train at 15:00 and a southbound one at 18:00. A quick trip to the Co-op to find a very affordable lunch and the first freight very clearly did show up. The light was awful unfortunately but it was fun to see the Ge6/6ii shunting it's train formation.

Ge4/4iii 651 in 'Glacier Express' livery approaches the short tunnel near Saas with a service to Davos Platz. 16/07/2018
Ge4/4ii 621 heads away from Saas with a train bound for Schol-Tastrup.
Note the addition of several wagons on the rear of the train as
is common practise on the RhB. 15/07/2018
Next we made a stop off at Klosters Dorf for some more shots, not as successful as our previous stop but still producing some pleasing results. We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the Saas area exploring several pleasing shots and waiting for the southbound Freight which we had been told was 15:00 at Klosters. Again the sun was kind to us, coming out very fortunately for the vast majority of trains- so much for today being the poor weather day! Time ticked on and with no sign of the freight (and a necessity to get back to the other side of the network and our accommodation) it was time to go. Just as we were starting to pack up of course a Ge6/6ii appears- on passenger! It made a nice photo and was a good note to end on. Of course 3 minutes later while we were half way down the hill there was another rumble and the freight passed- always the way!
Ge4/4ii 613 clings to the valley side as it ascends towards Klosters. The
gradients of the RhB are quite incredible for an all adhesion worked line!
There were two options to get back to Alvaneu- either via Chur and Richenau Tamins or back up to Klosters, through the Veriena tunnel and back via Samedan and the Albula pass. Fortunately the 1 minute connection at Kublis made comfortably and we were able to take the longer route via Samedan. Having emerged form the tunnel the route is very scenic and definitely somewhere we would like to visit again in the winter. Changing at Samedan I thought we might get our first unit of the day (other than the Davos - Filisur railcar) but I was pleasantly surprised when another Ge4/4ii was at the head of the train. We traversed the Abula tunnel and then descended the spectacular route down the line to Filisur winding over multiple spirals tunnels and bridges. I had forgotten quite how incredible this stretch of line is- the RhB certainly has some incredible gradients for an adhesion line!
On arrival back at Alvaneu (this being another of the few trains to call) we were much more confident in getting food and the restaurant once again obliged. With packed lunches put together again for the following day we had a couple of beers to celebrate what really had been a very good day on this incredible railway.

Tuesday 17th July
Ge6/6 'Crocodile' 414 arrives into Davos Glaris with the summer heritage
turn between Filisur and Davos. 17/07/2018
This was our last day in Switzerland and there was still quite a lot to achieve- we had forgone photographing both the Ge6/6 'Crocodile' heritage turn and the Landwasser Viaduct which had been on our list the previous day. Once again Landwasser would have to wait for another trip and we would seek somewhere between Davos and Filisur to photograph the Croc. First however there was the small matter of securing a ride behind a Ge6/6ii- since seeing one on passenger the previous day a little detective work discovered two 'mixed' trains which are hauled by the locos each morning. This meant taking the first train from our little station at Alvaneu down to Sarava for a +1 connection onto the mixed train. We had plans to wave to the driver out of the window to indicate our desire to make the connection- but we needn't have worried- the connecting train was another 5 minutes behind our arrival and comfortably connected. 704 with one coach and a couple of wagons was taken up the Albula pass to Samedan and was most enjoyable despite the crazy hour that we had got up. After this we transferred again to the Filisur - Davos line for the 'Croc'. Unfortunately our general luck with the light seemed to be through and the Croc passed in shadow- and you really need some sunlight on these dark brown locos! My friends were in a dilemma now- stay lineside to photograph the returning service, or cut your losses and ride it. There was no doubt in my mind- I had to get the train in order to make connections back to the airport and back to the UK for a night shift! Either way it was a fun novelty to travel behind the Croc in an open coach. Of course all my tight connections back to Zurich Flughaven worked perfectly, and I manged the whole journey loco hauled- I even had a chance to catch up with a couple of Re450's on the Zurich suburban network. Next time maybe I'll remember to bring details of the 'Lion' peak trains with the Re4/4ii's.
Ge4/4iii 650 approaches Klosters Dorf with a service to Davos. Many RhB locos carry special liveries, either advertisements or promoting the line. 650 wears a special scheme featuring the Landwasser Viaduct and celebrating the Albula Railway's UNESCO heritage status. 16/07/2018

BLS 180 approaches the car terminal at Kandersteg.
Switzerland must be one of the most enjoyable countries to visit for trips like this. The scenery is incredible and the trains are pretty good as well- this is even one country where I don't mind the zero expectation of seeing a diesel! The two main objectives of the trip were achieved, to get some pictures of the BLS 'Brownies' which were rumoured to be being withdrawn early in 2018 (they're certainly still going strong at the moment- but for how long?) and to improve on the gloomy pictures I managed of the Ge4/4ii's on the RhB which I saw in December. It would have been nice to photograph one of the 'Brownies' on a proper freight train, but given the small amount of time we had lineside on the Lotschberg route it is hardly surprising that this wasn't achieved. It was pleasing to see that a good number of trains do still use the mountain route on the Lotschberg pass and it is a line I would definitely like to come back to.
The photo we wanted of the Crocodile! Ge4/4ii 620 approaches Davos Glaris
with a service from Davos Platz - Fillisur. 17/07/2018
The narrow gauge trains of Switzerland are always good fun with their opening windows and crazy geometry. A trip back to the RhB this coming winter, before the influx of new 'Capricorn' EMU's, due to enter traffic in 2019, is already in the pipeline. Even once the units have arrived this route will be no less spectacular and we can only hope that the practise of attaching coaches and freight wagons to trains will continue.
Sadly this was the first trip I have made to Switzerland without riding behind an SBB Re4/4- Not surprising given the few SBB trains I travelled on, but something that is likely to become a more frequent occurrence with the impending introduction of the TwinDex trains.

Re460 064 hauls a train past the popular photospot at Einigen, near Spiez. 14/07/2018

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Welcome back 37512

The latest remarkable Colas Rail class 37 resurrection occurred in June 2018 with 37521 being restored to the active pool of locomotives rostered for Network Rail infrastructure monitoring trains. The locomotive, owned by HNRC and leased to Colas Rail enjoyed its final fling working for EWS back in 2004 during the autumn 'leaf busting' season working trains in and around Yorkshire. It was one of the few 'freight' 37's I was lucky enough to capture in my early days of the hobby with a camera who's results were varied at best! Having been off the mainline for over 13 years it's certainly great to see and hear the overhauled 37521 back on the national network!

Above 37521 'English China Clays' is seen bringing a RHTT set through Doncaster on 28th October 2004. 37516 in LoadHaul colours is on the rear of the train. Incidentally 37516 is another survivor and continues to see use on the mainline with West Coast Railways!

Below, 37521 13 1/2 years later approaching Basingstoke on 29th June 2018 working 3Z80 from Hither Green - Hither Green via Eastleigh.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Swanage Diesel Gala 2018

33012 arrives into Clapham Junction with the 'Purbeck Explorer' tour taking the LT 4TC to Swanage. 18/05/2018
The May diesel gala at the Swanage Railway is seen by many as a highlight of the year's gala season, and one of the few which I regularly try to attend. This year I was unfortunately only able to make it down to the south coast for the Thursday 'preview day' evening before shooting back towards London for work. My journey down to Swanage was probably the reason that it was worth making the effort for just a few trips on the railway- a mainline train right through from London to Swanage.

As part of the gala additional coaches were being hired in the form of London Transport's 4TC which is based at Ruislip. In order to get the main line registered TC down to the railway the novel decision was made to run a railtour both before and after the gala. Before the gala it would be headed by the Swanage Railway's main line registered D6515 (33012) and the return would be in the hands of 20007 and 20142. As a fan of all things Southern Region I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to take a 33 and TC down the South West Mainline onto their former stomping ground west of Bournemouth. OK- it wasn't a 33/1 with the necessary pipes to work in multiple with the TC, but it was pretty damn close. LT's 4TC is fitted with central door locking and window bars enabling it to operate unhindered on the national network. It was certainly a bit of a surreal feeling to watch the train come to a stand at Clapham Junction, open the slam door, board and the enjoy the satisfying 'clunk' as I closed the door behind me. Settling in to my NSE upholstered compartment it was a most enjoyable journey down to Dorset.

Once on the Swanage railway there was time to enjoy a few rides with the diesels operating that afternoon, the highlight of which was 'Hymek' D7017 which was looking superb! Also sampled during the evening were 73133 and 73136 together with the steam diagram being worked by 34053 'Sir Keith Park'.

Altogether a great afternoon down on the Swanage Railway- I just wish I could have stayed for a bit more of the weekend!

Details of the progress of the Swanage Railway's own 4TC which will be used on the line following restoration can be found here.

The LT 4TC leads a push/pull formation powered by class 73's into Corfe Castle. The Swanage Railway is currently part way through restoring its own 4TC set which will run on the line once completed. 18/05/2018

Friday, 1 June 2018

Dampfspektakel in Trier

Pacific's passing on the mainline 1075 passes 202 at Merzig on the Monday of the Damflokspectakle. 30/04/2018

Sunday April 29-
My arrival in Trier is greeted with 52 8154. Trier Hbf 29/04
While I had been aware of the Dampfspektakel for some months there was a little barrier in the way of my attendance. I had to be on stage the night of Saturday 28th April with an after-show party to follow. This didn't fit in well with the German steam, however upon reading the Dampfspektakel document a few weeks before it really did sound good- so a plan was hatched.
A bit desperate maybe, but there I was post-after-show-party standing on the platform at East Croydon at shortly after 03:00 ready to board the 03:36 Southern service to London Bridge. It was all starting to go wrong before it had even started with the train marked as 'Delayed' and no sign of the 02:49 either. Thankfully after a bit of confusion a train arrived for London only about 15 minutes late. I had plenty of time to walk to Liverpool Street for the 05:00 rail replacement bus to Stanstead Airport. I'm glad a arrived a little early as there was already quite a queue for the airport rail replacement bus, once on board however I was finally able to get a tiny bit of sleep as we headed up the M11.
52 1360 passes Ehrang with the 14:14 Trier - Wittich. 29/04/2018
My flight was at 07:30 to Frankfurt Hahn- an airport I had once travelled to before and vowed never to set foot in again. 'Frankfurt' Hahn is a 2 hour express coach away from Frankfurt however it is one of the nearest airports to Trier (only 1 1/2 hours by coach!). Once I had eventually cleared security (my bag went the wrong way) the flight was uneventful as was the well timed and pre-booked coach on to Trier. As expected at about 12:30 I was at Trier Hbf, it had just started to rain and there were no steam departures for the next hour. Never mind- time to walk to my hostel, check my bag in and freshen up. I had a private room however it was too early to check in so I left my bag, made my way back to the station and also checked in with my friends who were already out at the lineside. After buying my bargain 1 day 1 zone ticket I made my way to Ehrang to meet the group. There were a number of steam trains booked through in succession and I got my first taste of the Dampfspektakel with the tank 78 468 passing through at speed and under power- certainly a fine sight. Unfortunately things went a little downhill from here with several uninspiring passes in poor light, followed by one train failing to turn up at all- that was of course until we had retreated into a bar to complain about our poor luck when it then steamed past!
78 468 makes a fine sight passing the unloved station at Ehrang working from Gerolstein to Trier - 29/04/2018
52 8154 Passes Ehrang on Sunday afternoon bound for Trier.
Unfortunately this, combined with the reduced local Sunday train service now limited our plans to ride trains for the remainder of the afternoon. A good call was made and we headed to Merzig to pick up V200 033 for it's afternoon back into Trier. I had a good 30 minutes to catch up on some sleep which was very much needed by this point. We then enjoyed a splash of sunshine and a very enjoyable run behind the Warship back to Trier. The only problem was not being able to get any decent photos!
Back at Trier I had still not ridden a Dampflok! There were two options to rectify this and we headed to Schweich to pick up 52 8154 for a short run back to Trier (the Luxembourg would be covered on Monday).
It would be fair to say I was pretty exhausted by this point so I was quite happy to just go for a kebab for dinner before leaving the rest of the group and retreating for some much needed sleep!

V200 033 departs ECS from Trier after arrival form Merzig.
Sunday Heritage Moves:
V200 033 17:55 Merzig - Trier
52 8154 19:49 Schweich - Trier

Monday April 30-
103 113 crosses the Mosel near Pfalzel with the 08:09 Trier - Brohl conveying passengers for their day out on the
BrholBahn which would feature haulage from the lines Mallet locomotive. 30/04/2018

Monday was the 'lull' day of the event - neither a weekend or a bank holiday there were only a limited number of steam specials running. Rather than joining the world and his wife on the scrum to the Brohlbahn (103 113 wasn't required anyway) I chose to spend my time closer to Trier on the line to Saarbrucken which still had it's steam service. First I got myself up at a not too early hour to photograph the electric heading up to Koblenz with the masses for the Brohl. I arrived at my spot in lovely sunshine, but by the time the train had arrived the scene was of course completely different. Back at Trier I grabbed some breakfast, obviously getting stuck in the stupidly long checkout queues behind a man buying 15 pineapples, 24 cucumbers and various other fruit and veg - I can only presume he was having a party, or perhaps owns a restaurant.
The first move was to cover the complete line from Trier to Saarbrucken behind 'Pacific' 03 1010. The run was reasonable but suffered from the issue of most trains at the event- a very powerful locomotive with a light load, low speed and little in the way of gradient. Leaning out to enjoy the limited sound was further complicated by the fact that I had forgotten my 'spotting' sunglasses.
CentralBahn 110 278 is a suprise extra attraction at
Volklingen with an excursion train. 30/04/2018
I can't say Saarbrucken is a scenic station but I didn't have long here as I was heading straight back on a unit to Merzig to pick up the next steam heading down the line. This proved to be a very good move- not only did I have some company with a group I had met on the first train, but this move also put us on to 01 202 - which turned out to be a beast of a loco and one of very few at the event making a decent bit of noise!
It was a shame to leave 202 at Volklingen but there was a nice photo with the backdrop of the steelworks (and a bonus in the appearance of 110 xxx on an excursion). A few minutes later 03 1010 pulled back in and I completed my first 'Pacific for Pacific' move. This loco was taken back to Trier where there was actually time to head into town to get some food before the next steam departure with 01 1075 in the early afternoon. The Dutch loco was once again on the quiet side but through late running did provide a wonderful spectacle of passing 01 202 at Merzig, and also completed my second 'Pacific for Pacific' move!
Back at Trier it was then time to use a local unit to facilitate a lineside shot at the quarry around half way down the line. There were certainly a few photographers gathered here and it shouldn't have been a huge surprise when my friend Jasper from The Netherlands showed up with his group. After the loco shut off and we got a cloudy photo Jasper kindly invited me to join his friends on the chase, achieving one more photo of the loco. Good fun and a good (if brief) catch up.
Back in Trier it was time to think about food and I had another couple of friends to meet tonight from my own model railway society who were also in town for the event and had been up to the Brohlbahn for the day. Unfortunately by this point the heavens had opened and all the restaurants in central Trier were full!!! After a little searching we found one that wasn't full... but also wasn't serving. Finally we ended up in a Chinese and pretty decent it was too. Next across the road to a bar to re-unit with the friends I was actually supposed to be with for a beer or two or three... I think it was two?

Not the light or smoke effects I was hoping for as 01 1075 rounds the corner 
past the quarry at Taben with the 17:43 Saarbruken - Trier. 30/04/2018. 
Monday Heritage Moves:
03 1010 08:50 Trier - Saarbrucken
01 202 11:24 Merzig - Volklingen
03 1010 12:01 Volklingen - Trier
01 1075 14:41 Trier - Merzig
01 202 15:38 Merzig - Trier

Tuesday May 1st-
4-6-4t Tank loco 78 468 makes a great display climbing out of Bitburg on the route to Gerolstein. 30/04/2018

Parallel departure with 03 1010 and 52 8154
03 1010 enjoys a rare patch of sunshine on the morning of
Tuesday 1 May as it departs Konz for Saarbrucken. 

With a public holiday firmly in force steam was back up to full strength on the lines around Trier. I still had a lot of gaps to fill but first there was the spectacle of the early morning parallel departure. This was very well executed and quite a joy to travel on- and the sun came out! Once the two trains had parted ways I made a swift move back to Trier for what was one of my highlights of the event - an uphill run on the lovely line towards Gerolstein behind the equally lovely 78 468 tank, and in the company of my new friends from yesterday. This certainly made a nice sound heading up grade- and also made a nice photo departing from Bitburg. It wasn't long to wait for a Kreigslok 52 8195 back down to Trier. Next time to catch up with our groups favourite- 01 202, and another nice run we had with it as well out via the currently freight only route via Trier West. While we could have continued up to Bitburg again we decided to wait out our return train at Daufenbach where we knew we could get a beer and a bratwurst. Except for a little issue where I ended up with a non-alcoholic Dunkel Beer all was well and the stall seemed well pleased with the business- now if only it was sunny!
78 468 arrives into Daufenbach with the 12:25 from
Gerolstein to Trier. 01/05/2018
78 468 arrived for the run back to Trier having been turned at Gerolstein. Next was a slightly risky move to score my last Kreigslok of the event and also the route to Nenning which I had not yet covered. This involved taking 52 1360 up to Schweich for a +3 connection on to 52 8154 back through Trier and on to Nenning. My friends on the train were adamant that it would probably not work and the most likely outcome was getting stranded at Schweich- however I went with it and despite a slightly late arrival on 52 1360 the connection held (just) with just me and another brit (I don't think we quite outnumbered the Germans but it must have been close!) making it onto 52 8154.
CFL 5519 wait for departure with the 18:17 Trier - Luxembourg. 01/05/2018
E10 1239 arrives into Schweich with the 17:20 Wittlich - Trier. 01/04/2018
After the trip down to Nenning (which it turns out is a non-descript station pretty near to nowhere) and back, enjoying the views across the river Mosel to Luxembourg it was time to make another quick dash up to Schweich to pick up E10 1239, my first class 110, which works back from Wittlich. This was due to be Diesel V211 041 however since failing earlier in the week it had been covered by the 110. The loco certainly looks splendid and got me back to Trier in plenty of time to pick up the very last steam hauled train of the festival, the 18:17 to Luxembourg with CFL 5519.
01 202 departs from Daufenbach with the 11:18 Trier - Gerolstein. 01/04/2018
I picked my bag up from the station lockers and even the sun made an appearance before our departure. Everything was set for a really good run but 5519 simply never got going. I heard there may have been some sort of 30kph restriction on the loco- certainly it took the full booked 1 hour 55 minutes to reach Luxembourg, a journey of just 51km including a 30 minute stop at the border station Wasserbillig. It was a bit of a disappointing end to the steam, but it did get me into Luxembourg, a new country which I will have to visit properly, in time to get the bus to the airport for my 21:45 Ryanair flight back to London Stanstead which had cost a stupid sum of roughly £11! Certainly the steam/bus/plane move was tight, but it worked and drew to a close an entertaining couple of days. I can't say I was looking forward to being back in the office for an early turn in the morning though!

01 1075 passes a typical vinyard scene along the
banks of the river Saar. 30/04/2018
Overall a great event, which would have been even better if the trains had been a bit longer and the locos had had to work a bit harder- oh, and had the weather not been so bad for so much of it! Photography was tricky - both due to the aforementioned weather and the fact that when split between the various routes there were few locations with more than a few good train passes each day and long gaps between them. Despite what the literature said you really couldn't do much chasing of the trains without a car. Another difficulty was that many of the stations where the trains did stop the loco's would pull too far forward. I won't even start on the situation at Trier itself which was dire for photography and certainly not helped by the security staff, taped off platform ends an the throngs of people all vying for their less than average photos! Either way it was great to meet so many sociable enthusiasts both those who I already knew and those who I met on my travels. My visit may have been brief but it was certainly worthwhile.

78 468 is passed by Kreigslok 52 8195 at Trier Hbf. 01/05/2018

Tuesday heritage moves:
03 1010 07:59 Trier - Konz
78 468 08:45 Trier - Bitburg Erdorf
52 8195 10:59 Bitburg Erdorf - Trier
01 202 11:18 Trier - Daufenbach
78 468 13:29 Daufenbach - Trier
52 1360 14:14 Trier - Schweich
52 8154 14:30 Schweich - Nenning
52 8154 16:10 Nenning - Trier
E10 1239 17:47 Schweich - Trier
CFL 5519 18:17 Trier - Luxembourg

Reflecting on a great couple of days as CFL 5519 steams into Luxembourg.